Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The lost army of Cambyses

There’s a number of lost armies in the ancient world – lost legions, lost expeditions. According to Herodotus, Cambyses II’s expedition to subjugate the priests of Ammon in what is today the Siwa Oasis took a very bad turn, fast. The 50.000 men sent by the Persian king to give a hard lesson to the priests marched for ten days in the desert known as the Great Sea of Sand, got completely lost, and when last heard of were considering cannibalism as a way to survive.

When he came in his march to Thebes, he parted about fifty thousand men from his army, and charged them to enslave the Ammonians and burn the oracle of Zeus; and he himself went on towards Ethiopia with the rest of his host. But before his army had accomplished the fifth part of their journey they had come to an end of all there was in the way of provision, and after the food was gone they ate the beasts of burden till there was none of these left also. Now had Cambyses, when he perceived this, changed his mind and led his army back again, he had been a wise man at least after his first fault; but as it was, he went ever forward, nothing recking. While his soldiers could get anything from the earth, they kept themselves alive by eating grass; but when they came to the sandy desert, certain of them did a terrible deed, taking by lot one man out of ten and eating him.

Herodotus, Book III, chapter 25

I have stumbled on the fifty thousand men that Cambyses lost in the Sahara while working on a project I am not at liberty to describe in detail – suffice it to say that it does have a vague connection with Robert E. Howard, and now will feature – among other things – undead Persian soldiers emerging in full Harryhausen mode from the Great Sea of Sand.

Destruction of Cambyses’ Army by a Sandstorm Source Internet

And really, nobody knows what happened to Cambyses’ men – OK, we know they died in the desert, and various causes, from sand storms to dehydration, have been proposed through the years. Indeed, roughly once every twenty years some archaeological expedition claims to have found the remains of the Persians somewhere. So far, all claims have been debunked.

Reading on the subject these last two days has been a nice opportunity to find out about desert survival (or lack thereof), about the Persian military structure, and about sandstorm physics.
Isn’t this writing thing a blast…?


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Travelers’ tales, gossip and word of mouth

220px-Herodotos_Met_91.8This guy here on the right is Herodotus.
Or an acceptable likeness thereof – a Roman copy of a Grecian bust.
The Romans loved Herodotus – and according to Cicero he was the Father of history.
To me, he’s a fun read, and also the first stop for me when I decide to write a new Aculeo & Amunet story.

The Histories of Herodotus provide a wonderful collection of facts, hearsay and speculation about the Ancient World…

This is the display of the inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, so that things done by man not be forgotten in time, and that great and marvelous deeds, some displayed by the Hellenes, some by the barbarians, not lose their glory, including among others what was the cause of their waging war on each other.

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For all the Gold in Tibet – part 1

Let’s leave on a tangent, for a while. A couple of posts, no more.

As we mentioned in the last post of the Challenge, in his plan to make Tibet a technological power, the 9th Panchen Lama had found an ally in an American called Gordon B. Enders.
Enders was to supply the Panchen Lama with plane-loads of modern gear – from radios to tractors – and to start up the industrial revolution in the Himalayas.
But what about footing the bill?
How would all those tonnes of stuff get paid?

“Unknown to most of the world, the monasteries of Tibet have been collecting gold dust for at least six or seven centuries. This gold belongs to the ruling power because the Church and the Government are the same in Tibet. How much gold has thus been accumulated, it is hard to say, but it has been estimated to be about $100,000,000.”
(Gordon B. Enders, interviewed in New York, 1936)

22372ik4vrmk9f_orig_GOLD DUST

But the story of Tibetan gold is much older tha the 9th Panchen Lama and Gordon B. Enders… Continue reading